Saturday, May 14, 2011

VBV - Ch. 4 Pt. 9

Teachings Concerning Sexual Immorality

It's a really short section. It contains only two subheadings, homosexuality and adultery or fornication.

I find it sort of funny that the author quotes only two verses out of the Qur'an on homosexuality, and includes none of the ahadith. There's plenty of hadith that condemn homosexuality or even dressing/acting too much like the opposite sex. But then again, I would guess that the author herself has a major problem with homosexuality. That's just a guess, honestly, but why bother pointing out how nasty the Islamic texts are about homosexuality (or anyone who is not gender normative) when you pretty much agree with it anyway.

So this is what the author quotes.

surah an-Nisa 4:15-16 - "If any of your women are guilty of lewdness, Take the evidence of four (Reliable) witnesses from amongst you against them; and if they testify, confine them to houses until death do claim them, or Allah ordain for them some (other) way. If two men among you are guilty of lewdness, punish them both. If they repent and amend, Leave them alone; for Allah is Oft-returning, Most Merciful."

The first half, that about women who are guilty of lewdness is not, as I understand it, typically understood to be speaking of lesbianism. It is typically understood to be referring to adultery/fornication. However, the author follows the commentary of Yusuf Ali, who believes that 'lewdness', in this case "refers to unnatural crime between women, analogous to unnatural crime between men in 4:16." One reason she gives for this belief is that "no punishment is specified [in surah 4:15] for a man, as would be the case where a man was involved in the crime." And I can see that point. A problem here, is, of course, that we're working with a translation. Lewdness is the word in both verses, but is the original word the same word in both verses? I don't know. If we take both verses together as referring to the same 'sin', that of homosexuality, then it provides both punishment and release. We can assume that men or women, caught and convicted of such a 'crime' are to be placed under house arrest until their deaths, or until they repent and make amends for their 'sins'.

The author doesn't quote other verses of the Qur'an that make mention of homosexuality though. She leaves out all the verses that refer to the story of Sodom and Gomorrah, the story of Lot. I'm not going to make this a huge post, so the other verses are: surah al-'A'raf 7:80, surah Ash-Shu'ara' 26:165-173, surah An-Naml 27:54-58, surah Al-'Ankabut 29:28-31. I really think, in spite of an alternative opinion I was presented with the other day, that it's clear, from the Qur'an alone, that homosexuality is condemned in Islam. The mentions of Lot also, I think, make it clear that the Qur'an was not meant to be all inclusive. It assumes that people already know the story of Abraham, of Lot. And it seeks to 'correct' some details. Which means that it is building on previous scriptures. It's not meant to be stand alone, and I don't see how it could ever be considered self sufficient. How can people contextualize verses from the Qur'an if they reject the texts that tell them when and how the verses were revealed? Anyway. Off topic.

The hadith against homosexuality are numerous, and less friendly than the Qur'an about it. Trying not to make this a long post, so, Sahih Bukhari 7:72:774, 8:82:820, Abu Dawud 38:4447, 38:4448, 31:4007, 31:4008, 11:2169, 32:4087, 32:4088. I should point out, again, that Abu Dawud only seems to get trotted out when someone needs a particularly violent line. Bukhari says to turn out the people who commit homosexual acts, but Abu Dawud is the one calling for death. And guess who gets listened to?

Now on to adultery and/or fornication.

surah An-Nur 24:2-3 - "The woman and the man guilty of adultery or fornication,- flog each of them with a hundred stripes: Let not compassion move you in their case, in a matter prescribed by Allah, if ye believe in Allah and the Last Day: and let a party of the Believers witness their punishment. Let no man guilty of adultery or fornication marry and but a woman similarly guilty, or an Unbeliever: nor let any but such a man or an Unbeliever marry such a woman: to the Believers such a thing is forbidden."

Simple enough, right? You catch a couple in the act. Married or unmarried, it's the same punishment. Each party gets one hundred stripes with a whip. And they are forbidden from marrying anyone who is 'pure' of that sin. So adulterers can only marry other adulterers, etc. Or an unbeliever, a mushrikoon. So they are even forbidden from marriage to People of the Book. However, there's a problem, of course. The problem comes from the hadith. According to hadith, sahih Bukhari 7:63:195 - "Narrated Jabir: A man from the tribe of Bani Aslam came to the Prophet while he was in the mosque and said, "I have committed illegal sexual intercourse." The Prophet turned his face to the other side. The man turned towards the side towards which the Prophet had turned his face, and gave four witnesses against himself. On that the Prophet called him and said, "Are you insane?" (He added), "Are you married?" The man said, 'Yes." On that the Prophet ordered him to be stoned to the death in the Musalla (a praying place). When the stones hit him with their sharp edges and he fled, but he was caught at Al-Harra and then killed." This is also reported in sahih Bukhari by Abu Huraira. I'd list all the hadith that command stoning for adultery, but there's a bunch. Like, I counted 37, and I may not have seen them all. There is also a hadith that reports, via Aisha, that there was a verse that belonged in the Qur'an commanding stoning for adultery, but a goat ate it. I don't believe that that's from a book that is commonly accepted as very strong, so I mention it only in passing.

The fall out of this is that many are of the opinion that the Qur'anic injunction of whipping is for fornication - illegal sexual activity that occurs when both parties are unmarried. They are then forbidden from marrying anyone who is not also guilty of fornication, so one assumes they likely wound up marrying one another more often than not. For adultery, though, the hadith are viewed as authoritative, and people caught committing adultery, having sex with someone not their spouse, are to be stoned to death.

I don't believe that homosexuality is a sin. I know, I know, common interpretation, etc. I get it. But I cannot bring myself to condemn people whom God has made for being the way God made them. I think we got something wrong along the way with our understanding of this.

As for fornication, I don't believe that people should be running around having random sex. That opinion has far less to do with divine law and more to do with the dangers thereof, both physical and emotional. People tend to be happiest monogamous. Serial monogamy, perhaps, but still.

Adultery is a different matter. More than anything else, you have made a commitment, a promise to your spouse to be faithful. Adultery is the betrayal of that trust. There are people who have polygamous marriages, people who have open marriages. Those are different cases, assuming that all parties are aware of, and in agreement with the arrangements prior to the marriage. In that case, there is no trust being betrayed.


  1. I'm glad you decided - so far - to keep up with these lessons. Even if you don't want to present the very biased opinions of the book, I appreciate that you are using it as a "guide" to look into and further study these subjects. I have found them educational especially how you bring the Quran and hadith and opinions to light in your posts.

    And the picture on this post is really funny! :)

    "unwest" is my word...a reminder that we are talking about another culture? :D

  2. :D

    Yeah, I tried to do just post what the author says posts, but they're so aggravating for this book!

    I love this picture.

  3. Interesting. I really do need to get around to reading the Qur'an at some point. I like that the punishment is basically house arrest, and it's interesting also to hear about how it's interpreted in the hadith.

    Also, good point about the author skipping over it because she agrees (possibly). :D You're good at picking up on biases and reading carefully, I'm not sure that would have occurred to me but it's helpful to consider.

  4. sanil,

    It's really not that long. If you sat down just to read it you could probably do it in a day, maybe two depending on how much time you've got to spend on it.

    Yeah. You look at the Qur'an, and it's really not that big a deal. It's a sin, and not accepted, but it's not an instant death sentence. Then you get into the hadith and everything changes.

    I suspect everyone of bias! Including me! But really, given the tone of the work and the evangelical nature of the authors beliefs, I'd lay good money on them having a very hard line stance on homosexuality being a sin.


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